C2ER Blog

New Data on the Attainment of Certifications and Licenses

This article is part of a series of reports on new estimates from the Labor Market Information Institute State Certification and Licenses Data Tables.

18 percent of the United States civilian non-institutional population aged 16 years or older has a certification or license. Across states, the percentage of the population with a certification or license ranges from 14.8 percent in California to 22.1 percent in Maine to. Across occupations, the difference in average weekly earnings for those with a certification or license ranges from $70 to $744.

While non-academic credentials are not as common as a college degree, they do boost employability and earnings, providing opportunities for those with and without a college degree to advance their career. Attainment of certifications and licenses increases by education level and is associated with higher earnings.

As the first and only available state-level estimate of certification and license attainment for the United States, the State Certification and Licenses Data Tables are a new tool for specialists in workforce, education, and economic development. Previous state-level research into certifications and licenses sought to categorize and analyze licensed occupations, measure the burden of attaining licensure, or estimate the count of different licenses nationwide. The State Certification and Licenses Data Tables build upon this work by allowing users to analyze the labor force status and earnings for persons with and without a certification or license by age, gender, race and ethnicity, occupation, and industry.

The State Certification and Licenses Data Tables have several key limitations derived from the design of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey (CPS). First, it is difficult to separate the attainment of certifications and licenses. Licenses are authorized by a government licensing agency and convey legal authority to work in an occupation, while certifications are awarded by non-governmental bodies. The survey instrument associated with the CPS only collects information on persons with a certification and/or license, and persons with a certification only. Second, the survey does not collect data on the specific certifications or licenses held by individuals. For example, CPS data only notes whether a worker in a computer and mathematical occupation has a certification and/or license or not – it doesn’t distinguish whether the individual held a Comptia Security+ or Project Management Professional certification. Lastly, the State Certification and Licenses Data Tables provide limited information on persons with lower levels of education and in smaller racial/ethnic groups.

Despite these limitations, the Labor Market Information (LMI) Institute is excited for its state LMI partners to engage with the State Certification and Licenses Data Tables. State LMI shops have the necessary familiarity, data, and tools to understand these estimates within the context of their state. Combined with an understanding of their state’s trends, LMI researchers can utilize these estimates to better understand of the effect of non-degree credentials  on labor market outcomes in their state. LMI Institute will also be publishing public views for a broader audience. See the map above and follow the link to explore the data.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Current Population Survey collects information on the prevalence of certifications and licenses in the United States, published annually. Using this data, the Labor Market Information (LMI) Institute produced state-level estimates on the prevalence of certifications and licenses, including tables comparing certification and licensure by educational attainment across occupations, age, race and ethnicity, and gender using CPS microdata from 2016-2018.

New Report: How Credentials Help Veterans Transition to Civilian Work

According to a new report from Strada, Veterans Without Degrees, veterans not only hold more non-degree credentials than the general population, but veterans with credentials also have better employment and earnings outcomes than those without.

Furthermore, the report found that credentials obtained during veterans’ military service represent marketable skills when they enter the civilian workforce. However, much of the training and education provided by the military is not documented in a way that is applicable to the civilian job market. Given the positive labor force outcomes of credentialed veterans, the report recommends that further steps be taken to make sure that veteran education is better documented in a way that is recognized in the broader economy.

This report is part of a growing body of research into the impact of non-degree credentials on employment and earnings outcomes. The Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC), with the LMI Institute, conducted research into veteran outcomes in summer 2019 utilizing the Current Population Survey (CPS) microdata, and found similar patterns of attainment and outcomes. That report can be found here. The LMI Institute is also using the CPS microdata to assess the impact that licenses and certifications have in the broader workforce, which you can learn more about here.

State Investment in Workforce Development on the Rise

Written by Jacob Stenstrom

When analyzing spending on workforce development activities as part of states’ overall economic development expenditures, there has been a substantial increase over the last decade. For the budget year covering 2020, states have committed to spending a total of $1.76 billion on workforce preparation and development. This is more than double the amount from 2011. This amount is separate from Federal funding that is provided through a variety of U.S. Department of Labor and Department of Education programs.  While the increase corresponds with an overall increase in economic development spending by states, the percentage allocated to workforce development rose from 11 percent to 13 percent. In calculating the amount of state investment, the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER) focuses on the amount states spent on education, training and recruitment of workers with programs concentrating on improving the skills base and job placement of a state and/or community’s labor base. For economic development, these programs are almost always employer or firm focused.

Figure 1

When looking at the increase in workforce spending on a per capita basis, workforce development programs increased from $2.30 to $5.30 per person between 2011 and 2020.  This at a time when Federal spending to support employment and training declined. The data is reflected in the Workforce Development Spending trendline and in the Comparison of Workforce and Economic Development State Spending, presented in Figure 1 and Figure 2. Growing state spending is a recognition by states that companies are in desperate need of skilled workers, at a time when the unemployment rate has been at historic lows.  This has prompted states to focus on workforce preparation and development efforts like customized training tailored to the specific needs of a business, apprenticeships, or relying on community colleges, universities, or private training providers to help build a talent pipeline for companies in particular industries like manufacturing.

Figure 2

The five states that spend the most  on workforce development are Minnesota, New York, New Jersey, California, and Alabama. Each state listed, except for Minnesota and New Jersey, saw significant increases in spending year-over-year. Workforce development spending is, therefore, a heavy investment in more than just coastal-urban states. Rural states such as Minnesota and Alabama are leaders in workforce development spending. Several of these top five states have engaged in creating, supporting, and expanding programs.

Minnesota’s FY2020-21 biennial budget proposed more funding for Youth and Young Adult workforce development programs. Minnesota provided state funding for the Youthbuild program, Youth at Work Competitive Grants, and a Youth Program offer a construction career pathway for at-risk youth and young adults who have dropped out of school, youth with industry-recognized credentials and pre-apprenticeship training in residential construction; and provide summer and year-round employment and training services to low-income and at-risk youth, ages 14 to 24, through a partnership with the Local Workforce Development Boards and Youth Committees. However, the Department of Employment and Economic Development proposed a 6 percent decrease in workforce development for FY2020-21.

New Jersey has enhanced and refocused its investment in workforce development and apprenticeship programs over the past two years. There was a 32% increase in funding for workforce development programs in FY2019. The vast increase in funding is the result of additional support being put into the state’s Manpower and Employment Services and the Work First New Jersey program. The focus of these funding increases being employment and training services, strengthening of workforce development programs in the state. FY2020 budget proposal continues that commitment to workforce initiatives.

California has proposed an 11% increase in funding for workforce development programs in FY2020. The Governor’s proposed budget has included increased investment for pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs and the state’s High Road Training Partnership program, a sector partnership initiative of the California Workforce Development Board.

For more information and updates, visit the C2ER State Economic Development Program Expenditures Database.

Call for Proposals: 2020 C2ER Annual Conference and LMI Institute Forum

The Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER) and the Labor Market Information (LMI) Institute are soliciting proposals for the next annual conference and forum, which will be June 3 – 5, 2020 in Columbus, OH. The theme is The Roaring 2020’s: Mobilizing Your Talent and Economy for the New Decade.

The upcoming conference and forum marks the 60th anniversary of the annual conference – to recognize this banner year and as we enter a new decade, we are interested in learning how researchers are moving local, regional, and state economies and their workforce forward.

To see specifics and submit your proposal – view the full RFP.

Data Featured at the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board

Written By Gabriel Moss and Ken Poole

The American Workforce Policy Advisory Board met on September 18 to receive recommendations from four Working Groups.  One of those groups focused on the importance of data to the nation’s workforce system. The  Board’s Data Transparency Working Group presented several ideas tied to two key focus areas: (1) Modernizing O-Net with a new flexible ontology for skills that could be used to drive data collection and analysis and (2) Developing a new trusted system to share aggregated and individual workforce data.  The Working Group, co-chaired by Eric Holcomb, Governor of Indiana, and Bill McDermott, CEO, SAP, included LMI Institute Board member and National Association of State Workforce Agencies director, Scott Sanders.  The group focused on three key priorities: (1) improving workforce data assets so that skills data can become readily useful, (2) creating learning records that connect education, experience, and affiliations to present a more coherent picture about individuals’ capabilities, and (3) break down data sharing barriers.

The Working Group encouraged with American Workforce Policy Advisory Board to develop consensus on an interoperable digital learning record that includes data about traditional education attainment, non-traditional learning pathways, experience, professional affiliations, and other certifications to help job seekers attain high-wage jobs.  The Working Group presented a white paper identifying interoperable learning records (IRLs) as a novel and achievable method for connecting data about workers, employers, and educational and training institutions. The Working Group also recommended the adoption of limited, defined scope pilot programs to test IRL ideas for widespread adoption.

This widespread adoption will be enabled by the implementation of the Working Group’s three core policy recommendations: (1) create an inventory of current or planned projects and initiatives that relate to ILRs, (2) convene an expert group to develop an ILR project plan, and (3) champion fast-track prototyping among stakeholders in the ILR ecosystem to quickly bring a “minimum viable product” to market.

The first of these recommendations, the creation of an IRL inventory of current projects and initiatives, will be crucial in scaling and partnering between stakeholders to build an IRL ecosystem. For organizations and individuals engaged in this field, this inventory could mean increased opportunity for collaboration and coalition-building. Such a tool will be a boon to administrators as well as stakeholders, connecting communities and establishing a common ground and lexicon.

The proposed expert group will ensure the adoption of best practices and enterprise scale solutions through the piloting and roll-out of IRLs. The Working Group recommends these experts in policy, governance, and IRL-related technologies offer stakeholders the opportunity to ensure that the policies adopted at the federal level reflect their real, material experience in the field. These experts would identify those features and content required in an IRL minimum viable product (MVP) and ecosystem.

The report recommends the adoption of fast-track prototyping among stakeholders in order to scale up an IRL MVP as quickly as possible. The goal is to bring a solution to market by Q2 2020 in order to demonstrate IRL’s potential and begin realizing the benefits to American employers and learners. There is a tremendous need for increased transparency and uniformity in the nexus of transferable skills. IRLs promise to be this transparent bridge; bringing them to market as quickly as possible may be highly beneficial to workers and employers alike.

Source: https://www.commerce.gov/americanworker/american-workforce-policy-advisory-board

Eliminating Barriers for Youth in Apprenticeship Programs

Contributors: Anuradha Dhar, Allison Forbes

Apprenticeships are a promising solution to employer-reported “skills shortages” and an effective way to connect young adults to in-demand skills and jobs. But to live up to their promise, apprenticeship programs for young adults must more effectively reduce barriers to participation and completion, especially for students of color, according to a new report from the North Carolina Justice Center.

In the U.S., 10.9 percent of young adults of color (ages 16 to 25) are seeking work but unemployed, two percentage points more than the national average for this age group and four percent higher than their white peers (see the chart below). With unemployment at a sustained low nationwide, and employers clamoring for talent, these numbers reflect a disconnect between young adults of color and employers.

A typical apprenticeship program is sponsored by an employer, creating a direct link between training and employment. The North Carolina Justice Center report finds that even when youth apprenticeship programs are well designed, with employers engaged as program sponsors, paying wages and college tuition, a range of barriers can stop students of color from accessing, entering and completing these high-quality apprenticeship programs. The study specifically looked at county-level, locally led apprenticeship programs belonging to the Eastern Triad Workforce Initiative in central North Carolina.

Exposure and recruitment

Lack of early exposure can mean some students never hear about apprenticeship programs or have a chance to apply. Even when students hear about a program, they may decide the program is not for them because they don’t see anyone who looks like them. Career counseling staff, classroom instructors and other trusted advisors must be informed about these programs and encourage students of color to apply.

Parental skepticism is another barrier. Apprenticeships leading to technical, middle-skill jobs are often not recognized as a pathway to financial stability. The report notes that “many parents and their social networks see four-year college or joining the military as the only pathway out of poverty into middle class stability because it was the only path available to them.”

“Without an intentional effort to engage students of color they may never hear about apprenticeship because they were never informed, they may never apply because they were never recruited, and they were never recruited because they lacked a personal connection with a mentor or trusted teacher.”

– North Carolina Justice Center report

Student screening

To introduce students and their parents to the apprenticeship program, employers may host meet-and-greet events with students and parents at the work site. But some students and parents cannot attend due to lack of transportation, employment and family obligations. These challenges may be particularly acute for students of color due to historical wealth gaps.

Students are also subject to explicit screening criteria that may screen out otherwise qualified students of color. Stringent standards may not capture students’ full abilities and may shrink the talent pool over time. Additionally, GPAs may reflect deeper socioeconomic disparities and biases faced by students of color in schools. Other reports on youth apprenticeship, such as this one from New America, have raised similar concerns about minimum GPA and attendance requirements.

Pre-apprenticeships, full apprenticeships, and community college degree completion

Once selected for a program, apprentices must navigate workplace practices and balance family responsibilities. Students who contribute to family income may work multiple jobs and lack funds to buy appropriate materials for the job, and students of color are more likely to face these financial barriers. Additionally, students of color entering a majority white work environment may need help adapting to a new culture of work. Interpreting behavior at the workplace is particularly important to students of color, a finding also reported by the Ray Marshall Center for the Study of Human Report.

Proactively connecting apprentices to mentors, financial supports and “wrap-around” support services (such as childcare or transportation) would help ensure that students of color from low-income families complete their programs to secure employment with their sponsoring company. It is worth noting that, in North Carolina, a state-sponsored tuition waiver is key to ensuring the affordability of youth apprenticeship programs. North Carolina’s tuition waiver allows apprentices to complete their degree for free, helping attract and retain students.

Read the executive summary from the North Carolina Justice Center. To learn more, join the C2ER webinar with report authors Allan Freyer and Allison Forbes on August 15.


Professional Certifications and Licenses Increase Earnings and Reduce Unemployment, New Data Shows

Written by Anuradha Dhar

At the end of June, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) at the Department of Labor released a report on 2018 data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) on the role of professional certifications and occupational licenses in the U.S. labor market. Their most recent annual data was released in January 2019.

This data, produced since 2015, is the first to provide such comprehensive insights into the prevalence of certifications and licenses and related earnings. The Labor Market Information (LMI) Institute has been working with this data since 2015 to produce the State Certification and License Database, found here.

Certifications and licenses are credentials that demonstrate an individual’s competency related to a skill or knowledge used in performing specific jobs. Licenses are issued by a federal, state or local government agency; certifications are issued by nongovernmental certification bodies.

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C2ER Recognizes Excellence in Economic Development Research Community, Economic and Workforce Development Applied Research Awards

On June 6, 2019, economic and workforce development professionals from across the U.S. and Puerto Rico assembled at The Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER) annual conference in St. Louis, Missouri to recognize excellence in economic development research work done by their peers. Receiving awards were the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Centers of Excellence for Labor Market Research (California), Georgia Power Company, Greater Houston Partnership, Greater Minneapolis -St. Paul Economic Development Partnership, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Team Northeast Ohio.

The C2ER awards program recognizes the contribution of research activities to the success of local, regional, or state/provincial economic development initiatives. The purpose of the award is to increase the quality of economic development research by identifying meritorious projects and promoting the diffusion of creative ideas for research activities.

Projects could be submitted for evaluation in the following categories of research activity:

  • Projects that support business and workforce development activities
  • Data collection/dissemination efforts, including web-based systems
  • Policy Analysis supporting federal, state, or local initiatives
  • Project impact/program evaluation or assessment
  • Projects that support collaborative community/regional initiatives

The projects were judged on their contributions to the economic development research field, innovativeness in approach, implementation or collaborative efforts, responsiveness to customer needs, and benefits resulting from project implementation. The seven highest scored projects were chosen out of 16 submissions.

Research projects recognized for “Outstanding Achievement” include:

Allegheny Conference on Community Development

For Recognition for Projects Supporting Collaborative Community Initiatives

In 2018, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development (Conference) revised a decade long survey used to aggregate regional economic development projects won each year. A digital Business Investment Scorecard was developed that makes data and trends highly digestible, complemented by visuals and supporting quotes/testimonials from investors and other stakeholders. This initiative has resulted in a great opportunity for collaboration among regional economic development partners and an effective way to gather often difficult to find information in the region. It is simple to implement and manage making it easily adaptable for nearly any economic development organization.

Centers of Excellence for Labor Market Research (California)

For Project Impact/ Program Evaluation and Assessment

The Center of Excellence for Labor Market Research (COE) produced a report, focused on nine common and specialized cybersecurity work roles, to quantify employer demand and the supply of educational providers in California – Cybersecurity: Labor Market Analysis and Statewide Survey Results from California Employers and Postsecondary Institutions (Cybersecurity report). The COE conducted the first statewide, workforce demand-side primary research study tied to the NICE Cybersecurity Workforce framework. COE not only reviewed the demand for nine work roles but also created a series of questions about skills for traditional information communications technology (ICT) jobs. This report contributed to the development of California’s workforce by aligning the business and education communities to a common cybersecurity workforce development framework. As education and industries partner to align their strategies to address the workforce challenges outlined in the Cybersecurity report, employers will be able to tap the talent pipelines from California cybersecurity education providers to increasingly fill job vacancies with qualified candidates.

Georgia Power Company

For Projects Supporting Business Development Activities

Georgia Power is committed to the continuous improvement and investment in the state’s community and economic development. The newest way the company is doing this is through a comprehensive Competitive Market Assessment that allows users to analyze project activity in real-time across regions and states. In doing so, researchers can dissect each individual location announcement by key performance metrics such as jobs and capital investment. The analysis also builds upon a series of 15+ publications we produce annually that already evaluate the activity of key industries across Georgia compared to the nation. Using Conway Analytics and Georgia Power’s proprietary Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, the research team is uniquely and competitively positioned to support the economic development strategy and create targeted campaigns to reach key market segments — and investment — that are currently being lost to competitors.

 Greater Houston Partnership

Projects Supporting Business and Workforce Development Activities

 The Greater Houston Partnership developed a Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) workflow to objectively evaluate land and building sites for high-technology economic development Requests for Information (RFI), Site Suitability Analysis for High-Tech Projects. High-tech projects are highly desirable by region stakeholders, and regional economic development organizations (EDOs) and Chambers of Commerce (COC) are eager to submit sites within their respective territories. However, for many RFIs, only one regional RFI response is allowed, and it is therefore essential that all possible sites are narrowed to the best site(s) for the final RFI submission in a manner that is transparent and acceptable to all participating stakeholders. The project developed a new method to express and visually communicate workforce concentration and density across irregularly shaped block-groups. In this workflow, concentration was shown as ‘high-tech labor per square mile that is 10-times, 15-time, and 20-times the metro area average’. This expression allowed the client to understand density in the context of its relation to the Houston metro area.

Greater Minneapolis -St. Paul Economic Development Partnership

For Data Collection/ Dissemination Efforts

Originally created in 2015, the Greater Minneapolis-St. Paul’s Regional Indicators Dashboard (Dashboard) is a data dissemination and benchmarking tool designed to create a shared regional dashboard with metrics agreed upon by regional stakeholders to address shared priorities. The ultimate goal of the Dashboard is to be used to guide decision making in order to lead to collective action in the region. The local impact of the Dashboard in Greater MSP has been significant. Companies, nonprofits, foundations, chambers of commerce and other groups are putting the Dashboard to work in their organization to align goals and tackling issues that the Dashboard identified. The overall goal of the Dashboard was to create a set of shared, objective metrics to track the Greater MSP region’s overall movement on critical economic, environmental and social outcomes.

 Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development

For Policy Analysis Supporting Federal, State, or Local Initiatives

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) is required to publish a compilation and summary of results to the Legislature on eligible business and financial assistance provided by state and local government agencies by December 2018 for the previous two calendar years (Minnesota Statute §116J.994, Subdivision 9). To fulfill that requirement DEED staff prepared updated calendar year CY 2016 and CY 2017 reports from August 1, 1999 through December 31, 2017 using Tableau visualization software, resulting in the 2018 Business Assistance Legislative Report. This allows the user is able to more easily drill down the data and improves public transparency.

Team Northeast Ohio

For Projects Supporting Collaborative Community Initiatives

In 2018, Team Northeast Ohio project on the commercialization of industrial internet of things technology is the accumulation of collaborative efforts between the Roadmap Project Team, Team NEO’s innovation and research team, and a Working Group of prominent end-user companies, key supply chain participants and leading academic institutions. The Smart Manufacturing – Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) Roadmap (IIoT Roadmap) is designed to help influence the future of manufacturing across Northeast Ohio in the digital age. The IIoT Roadmap translates economic impact studies of IIoT into an actionable tool based in research that local economic development practitioners can leverage to call on companies. As manufacturing innovation becomes even more important to Northeast Ohio’s competitiveness in the global economy, IIoT offers manufacturers a tremendous opportunity to increase their productivity, spur product innovation, develop tomorrow’s workforce and bring more profit to the bottom line.


C2ER – The Council for Community and Economic Research – is a national membership organization of economic development researchers, represents professionals working for chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, local government, utilities, academic institutions, and regional planning councils.


RFP Announcement: State Projections Partnership looks to add 5-Year Industry and Occupation Products

The demand for medium term (e.g., 5-year) projections continues to increase. According to many customers of labor market information, five-year projections would better assist individuals to make informed career decisions and give policymakers more relevant information for aligning and allocating current and future resources across the education, workforce and economic development systems. At present, states are funded by the U.S. Department of Labor to produce 2-year and 10-year projections of industry and occupational employment growth.  In response to the customer demand, the Projections Managing Partnership (PMP) has issued a Request for Proposal for an Estimation Process for Medium-Term (5-Year) Projections for State and Local Projections Products.

The Projections Managing Partnership (PMP) is a nationally recognized network of state labor market information specialists and experts creating critical information resources for the nation’s workforce system. The PMP serves as the central hub for supporting states as they develop and deliver high-quality state and local employment projections. The PMP has been charged with standardizing methodologies, offering technical assistance, and determining deliverable timetables. With this RFP release, the PMP is seeking the services of a qualified contractor to assist the organization with the development of a robust method to estimate medium-term industry projections and integrate those projections with existing BLS methodology in the production of industry and occupation projections.  These projections will become critical components and complement for the existing Projections Suite software used by the states to produce their official projections.

If you or your organization are interested in responding the RFP, download the RFP for more details.  The deadline to submit is Thursday, May 30, 2019

Download RFP (doc)

364 Days Until Census Day 2020!

CREC Staff attended the Census 2020: Navigating the National and Local Challenges panel discussion hosted by the Brookings Institution to hear legal, demographic, and Census experts discuss possibly the most news covered Decennial. Primary questions from the meeting revolved implications of including the citizenship question in the Decennial Census, cybersecurity, and how to encourage residents to respond.

Former Census Bureau Director John Thompson noted that there is “no basis for the citizenship question” and that agency research indicates that it will decrease the response rate. Brookings Senior Fellow William Frey supported Thompson’s statements by emphasizing the importance of gathering this community data and the impacts it will have on communities’ federal funding, private grant dollars, and resources to serve the right population.

Thompson shared that the Census Bureau was underfunded from 2012 – 2017, so the Bureau prioritized shifting from the traditional paper collection to an automated and online process. He noted the Bureau is constantly working on improving cybersecurity and is committed to keeping residents’ responses safe and confidential.

The second panel facilitated by the National League of Cities’ CEO Clarence Anthony focused on the implications and efforts at the local level to ensure the best data possible is collected. Beth Link, the Director of Census Counts, encouraged communities to educate their elected officials and noted that there will be questionnaire assistance centers to help make the necessary technology accessible to communities where it’s needed and to help answer questions as residents complete the forms.

C2ER and the LMI Institute will continue to monitor 2020 Census preparations and will serve as a resource to our members moving forward. To learn more and hear directly from Census Bureau leadership, join us at the C2ER Annual Conference and LMI Institute Forum June 3 – 7, 2019 in St. Louis.

Resources shared during the discussion include:

Recordings of the Panels can be found below.

Economic Development News